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Wing Safety Innovates and Adapts to COVID-19

David Sparkman, Occupational Safety Manager, inspects the track at the 171st Air Refueling Wing July 9, 2020, Pittsburgh, Pa. Sparkman is looking for any issues with the track that would be a safety violation. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Zoe M. Wockenfuss)

David Sparkman, Occupational Safety Manager, inspects the track at the 171st Air Refueling Wing July 9, 2020, Pittsburgh, Pa. Sparkman is looking for any issues with the track that would be a safety violation. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Zoe M. Wockenfuss)

CORAOPOLIS, Pa. --

The Wing Safety Office at the 171st Air Refueling Wing, Pittsburgh, Pa., has shifted their human interaction filled work day to a socially distanced and virtual presence. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, they have fine-tuned their SharePoint site, provided vital insight to the quick response “Tiger Team” and gone to a two shift schedule for more hourly safety coverage.

The safety team had to transition to a mostly online approach during the pandemic. In order to keep guardsmen up to date on their required training, they made it all available on their SharePoint site, including privileged training, motorcycle training and mishap response plan training. COVID directly impacted the annual Safety Down Day and resulted in the cancellation of the keynote speaker. However through the use of technology, they were still able to ensure there was a virtual Safety Down Day available via the SharePoint site.

Transitioning to providing virtual safety training, instead of in-person classes, has been made possible through the use of the safety SharePoint site. The site was recently recognized by the Air National Guard Safety office as a “shining example” of a comprehensive safety SharePoint site. They made it user friendly with all aspects of the wing safety programs accessible 24/7.

At the very beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, the base put together a quick reaction team, “Tiger Team,” that was made up of subject matter experts to provide ideas on how to keep the members healthy and safe. One key contribution from the Safety Office was ensuring the safe installation of the plexiglass shields that mission essential personnel who needed to continue with face to face contact could have at their desks. They ensured the Air Force Instruction and Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations were adhered to.

The Safety Team switched to a two shift work-week. The idea was to comply with the social distancing guidelines set out for all 171st ARW members but it also guaranteed there was no absence of a Safety member during Wing work hours.

“We in the Wing Safety Office are committed to ensuring not only a safe working environment for the members of the 171st ARW, but also are striving for continual excellence for our Safety Programs,” said Lt. Col. Ian Hurbanek, 171st ARW Chief of Safety.